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FEATURE ARTICLE

Life After Death in the Deep Sea

Following immolation by volcanic eruption, the community around a hydrothermal vent recovers spectacularly

Richard Lutz, Timothy Shank, Robert Evans

Figure 6. Although mature tubeworms . . .Click to Enlarge Image

The first examples of life forms not dependent on solar energy were discovered by scientists using towed cameras and the submersible Alvin in 1977 along hydrothermal vents of the Galapagos Rift. Since then, investigators have made hundreds of dives aboard Alvin to learn more about these unusual ecological communities. In the spring of 1991, Alvin and its tender, Atlantis II, happened to be on station above the East Pacific Rise between 9 and 10 degrees north latitude only a few days after the axial summit trough 2,550 meters below the surface erupted, obliterating a thriving vent community. The authors made numerous dives on the 9N Biotransect over the ensuing 10 years. Their article describes the return of life to the vents and the ecological succession they witnessed.


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